Archive for April, 2014

Reporting on Richmond’s Reporters

Getting interviewed by journalists and reporters gives me an insider perspective on certain aspects of the media in Richmond.
Lately, I’ve noticed a common issue with the people who are interviewing me; they are new to town. From VCU’s Commonwealth Times paper to ABC 8’s tv reporters, I’ve spoken with reporters who were practically brand new to Richmond, and reporting on issues for which they had no background. I’m pretty sure that some of my interviews have turned into lectures, with me trying to fill in for instance, the past 4 years of struggle around Monroe Park to someone who did not realize the 2010-11 campaign against the renovation plans existed. I’ve given reporters names, websites, and more to look into. But with the high speed of today’s media and short attention spans of many audiences, it is unrealistic to expect anyone to be able to cram much research in before ‘Tonight at 11″.

To be clear, this is not likely the fault of the journalists. In fact, it is more symptomatic of the sad state of journalism and the media in the United States of America today. Journalists today are notoriously underpaid, overworked, and it seems have fairly unstable career paths compared to their predecessors. One of the results of this, is that it seems journalists move around more than they once did.

I tried to ask a wide swath of Richmond’s journalists and reporters about their home town, experience in journalism, and time spent in Richmond. I wanted to confirm my suspicions that many of the journalists who had interviewed me, and produced articles on current political issues in Richmond, lacked adequate knowledge and understanding of the history around those issues.

There are of course, the old heads (sorry for calling you old yall – but really, you are), who have been around Richmond for a while, like Chris Dovi, Michael Paul Williams, Mark Holmberg, Jason Roop and more. I don’t want to age them too much, so no need to flaunt their time spent in Richmond here. Let’s just say they are well versed in the going-ons in Richmond.

But then there is a large crew of people who have only been in Richmond since 2012 or as short as 6 months. These journalists include some names you see all over the media-

Ned Oliver (Style Weekly and in Richmond since September 2012),

Graham Moomaw (Richmond Times Dispatch and in Richmond since January of 2013),

Tom Nash (Style Weekly and in Richmond for 6 months),

Tina Griego (Style Weekly and in Richmond since August 2012), (more…)

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City Council Funds Vulture Richmond, not Schools, Libraries, or Firefighters

If you weren’t at City Council tonight, here is my recap.

Before the meeting I spoke again with Michelle Mosby (9th district), who informed me that per our agreement after the last meeting, she had gotten the Public Comment period moved to earlier in the meeting’s agenda. I had made the request because I feel that Charles Samuels intentionally pushes that comment period later in the meetings to avoid having more attendees hearing what the public has to say. Typically by the end of the meetings many people have filtered out. It also seems that the public should have their say before votes happen, in case their information might be influential to a council person in some way. In exchange for the moved public comment period, I agreed to yell less and be more ‘respectful’. This all came about as I tried to explain to Michelle that when Charles Samuels refused to allow public comment on agenda items, the public was going to have their say one way or another, which was what we saw at the earlier April meeting. I hope that public comment stays early on the meeting agendas. Although the new 6 month trial of 1 meeting a month seems likely to cut into the ability of the public to speak.

About 16 RPS students came to express dismay at the refusal by the administration to fully fund schools. Their presence was a follow up to this morning’s walkout protest where around 200 students from 5 different Richmond Public Schools left school and marched to City Hall to protest the lack of full funding for schools, and the poor condition of many of the schools. #rvawalkout was the tag used for this campaign.

Isabella Arias, a student at Open High, spoke in the public comment period, but essentially had their concerns dismissed by Charles Samuels. Isabella made several salient points, including that to be a first tier City Richmond needs first tier schools before stadiums.

The other major issue I picked up on tonight was item 10 on the consent agenda. The way the agenda was written was very deceptive, and the ordinance sounded vague. Charles Pool tipped me off that in fact the ordinance had to do with giving Venture Richmond money.

“Ordinance Number 2014-80 (Patron: President Charles Samuels – To approve the Work Plan and Budget for the fiscal year ending Jun. 30, 2015, for the provision of services in the Downtown Richmond Special Service and Assessment Districts. “:

That ordinance is about, well, it is hard to tell by the little bit of information put on the agenda.

However, a closer read of the full text of the ordinance revealed that it would give $700,000 to Venture Richmond for their programming, including Canal Cruises, Friday Night cheers, Tredegar Green, their ‘ambassadors’, and more.  The full text of the ordinance was not in the agenda, and was not among the papers placed on the ledge to be distributed. I found it only with the help of Silver Persinger, in the giant binder of ordinances down in front.

I asked City Council members to vote no on this item. The sneakily worded ordinance was very misleading to residents. An additional problem at this meeting was that, as usual, there were not nearly enough agenda’s printed to go around. Many people in the audience wanted agendas, and could not get copies, and therefore had a very difficult time following along.

One reason to vote no on giving Venture Richmond money or tax breaks is their Tredegar Green amphitheater plan. Residents of Oregon Hill, neighboring Tredegar Green, overwhelmingly object to the project, and Council should not support this funding.

The ‘Ambassador’ program which is also funded through this grant, says that Venture Richmond’s ambassadors “discourage behavior that threatens the future prosperity of downtown”. To my ears, this sounds like a gentrification patrol, using their authority to promote a set of standards which residents have not had a say in. I question who’s standards and who’s prosperity are being kept in mind and promoted by these ambassadors, and seriously question why tax payer money should be supporting their agenda.

The $700,000 also funds events like Friday Cheers and Canal Cruises. Friday Cheers is the Venture version on an event which used to be free on Brown’s Island, but now costs $5-10 depending on the show. Somehow getting public money for the event has resulted in them charging attendees. The Canal Cruises are another money making enterprise for Venture Richmond, but subsidized by the taxpayers. The tickets for the cruises cost $5-6 depending on your age.

Additionally, Venture Richmond has used their money to fund the sorts of political lobbying campaigns that non-profits are not actually supposed to engage in. As of February 5, Venture Richmond had stated they spent $32,500 on the Loving RVA campaign, a transparent support campaign for Mayor Dwight Jones’ Revitalize RVA baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom plan. Dwight Jones is also the President of the Venture Richmond Board of Directors. City Council President Charles Samuels (2nd district) and Vice President Ellen Robertson (6th district) are also on the Board.

The bottomline here, again, is that City Council is spending tens of thousands of dollars on plans that are not fairly bid, not wanted by residents, and not beneficial to residents. Parker Agelasto (5th district) and Reva Trammell (8th District) have both supported the idea of getting the $40,000-50,000 necessary to open one library location on Sundays for a year. Currently no City libraries are open on Sundays.  Well, shoot, with $700,000 we could keep 14 libraries open on Sundays for the year, more than 1 per district.

$700,000 could also go a long way towards fixing the roof of school, and other urgently needed facility repairs on school buildings. In fact, $700,000 is exactly how much money the School Board is looking for in order to repair the roof of one elementary school and one middle school. While City Council and the School Board play pass the blame, but not the buck, students pay the price.

Firefighters have also recently come to council to ask for more financial support, specifically for their career development. These folks help our communities to stay safe, and deserve support.

The 3 million needed to be raised by the Monroe Park Conservancy, who recently landed a 30 years for $30 lease on Monroe Park, is basically just over 4 times that $700,000. Maybe if we kept that money for our park system Council would not feel the urgent need to privatize our public spaces.

The leasing of Monroe park and this grant to Venture Richmond are both examples of essentially no bid auctions of public resources. These are plans designed for 1 specific group. In the case of Monroe Park, the call for public bids was a technicality followed only when Caroline Cox pointed out their illegal no bid process. My bid was the only competing bid, and it was a protest bid. While the Monroe Park Conservancy had over 3 years to develop a plan and then a bid for the plan tailored for them, I had 30 days. For Venture Richmond’s 700,000 grant, which they receive year after year, the issue isn’t even up for a bid at all.

We have the money for our parks. We have the money for our schools. We have the money for our libraries. We have the money for our firefighters.  We have the money, City Council just consistently chooses to spend it on corporate welfare and the rich instead of the things the rest of us want and need. Vote them out in 2016.

Vulture Richmond logo // Venture Richmond Logo

Vulture Richmond logo // Venture Richmond Logo

Sunday Sermon – The Appropriateness of an Easter Protest

jesuswashomeless

We are having a protest at the Easter Parade on Easter in Richmond. There were of course, critics. The Easter Parade is a family event, and Easter itself is Christian holiday which celebrates the Rising of Jesus Christ from the dead. Clearly, that is some significant stuff.

However, we find the Easter Parade to be a completely appropriate setting for this type of a protest. I would go so far as to say that Jesus is/would be on our side and that we would be doing a great disservice to his message were we to not emphasize some of the incredibly salient points in Christianity which relate to current local political issues.

We are protesting against Venture Richmond (who now sponsors the Easter Parade and pushes for tax breaks while still getting more than their fair share of tax payer money), the privatization of Monroe Park by the Monroe Park Conservancy (one of whom’s members lives on the hoighty toit Monument Avenue at 1643), and the Revitalize RVA plan being pushed by Mayor Dwight Jones and Developers. What all three of these issues have in common, is that they largely benefit the rich, while deprioritizing other issues like schools, public parks, the history of the slave trade and institutional racism, poverty and the homeless.

We will again emphasize something very significant, which is the 27% poverty rate in the City of Richmond. 40% of the youth live in poverty. Richmond is a poor City, and the elected officials, corporations, and non-profits are not doing enough to help the poor and fight against all forms of oppression. Instead they are working to increase their profits, their money, and their power.

With the help of friends we have done some exploration of the bible and related texts to see what they have to say. We hope that folks at the Easter Parade and in positions of power in the City of Richmond will give these words the consideration they deserve.

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We start with the Lord’s Prayer, which includes the very telling lines, “Give us our Daily Bread and forgive us our trespasses”.

People deserve food, food is a right not a privilege. And in Monroe Park, people come for food, and they should never, ever be considered trespassers on public lands. Public parks should remain public.

This image is of a statue at Regis College, of homeless Jesus sleeping on a park bench.
homelessjesus

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of heaven” Mark 10:25

This is just one of the many statements in the Bible critiquing the rich.

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need, but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth” 1 John 3:17-18

We hear a lot from politicians talking about compassion for the poor or homeless, but at the end of the day we have seen very, very little. Words do not mean anything if not backed up by actions. The selfishness of many is reflected in the corporations in this City, who give only when tax deductible and consistently lobby for better deals for themselves while ignoring the poor.

“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God” Proverbs 14:31

Privatizing parks, ignoring or making illegal the homeless, racial profiling by police, failure to protect folks of all genders and in the lgbtqia spectrum, classism, and racism are all forms of oppression constantly and consistently occurring in Richmond. There is nothing honorable about these forms of oppression, they are contemptuous. A specific example of this in Richmond is that the Richmond Police Department goes around and finds homeless camps, and then destroys the camps and throw away all of the belongings of the people who had lives there. The Richmond Police also force people with court ordered community service to participate in this violent, dangerous, and incredibly oppressive act. Any City official who does not stop this from happening is complicit. We are all complicit.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You can not serve both God and money” Matthew 6:24

Mayor Jones, you have to choose. Who is more important, the private developers looking to make a quick buck, or the poor?

wwjcut

“They also will answer, ”Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me'” Matthew 25:44-45

“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court, for the LORD will take up their case and will plunder those who plunder them” Proverbs 22:22-23

And finally, a very powerful statement, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?” Isaiah 10:1-3

For a Mayor who is also a minister, the City of Richmond clearly lacks leadership who will fight oppression and show compassion to the needy. We have built a new jail for the poor and needy, but we have not built them shelters. They are planning to use tax payer money to pay the utilities for a restaurant in Monroe Park, but they could not keep the Conrad Center funded as one (actually badly conceived and executed) location to serve food to the poor. The Mayor only pushes for grocery stores in food deserts when he can also build a baseball stadium on historic slave trade sites.

Something is wrong in Richmond. We do not have to be Christians to see that the Bible itself, and especially Jesus, had a lot to say which is valid and relevant. We hope that anyone will consider these words and take the messages to heart. We need a big change in our culture.

What Would Jesus Do?

jesusflogg

On Being a Scary Man-Lady with a Fat Ass

Check out my reaction to anonymous internet commenters on news stories in my new essay on Quail Bell Magazine

http://www.quailbellmagazine.com/3/post/2014/04/essay-on-being-a-scary-man-lady-with-a-fat-ass.html

April 9, 2014 Special Meeting of Land Use Committee – Mo Karnage’s Presentation

(hey that’s me!)
As always, never ending thanks to Silver Persinger for being an amazing activist and documenting so much of public process in Richmond.

2014 April 9 – Special Meeting of Land Use To Consider Monroe Park Bids – Richmond City Council – Richmond, Virginia from Silver Persinger on Vimeo.

From Redskins to Monroe- We Shall Not Be Moved

Update!! Easter Sunday – protest Venture Richmond, a baseball stadium in Shockoe Bottom, and Monroe Park Lease at Robert E. Lee statue at Monument and Allen in front of Alice Massie’s house from 1-5pm Please Share!!! Spread the word and bring signs and banners and noisemakers!!!! #rvacouncil #monroepark #venturerichmond #nostadium #shockoebottom #rva #foodnotbombs #rvafoodnotbombs #anarchist #radical #wingnut #vulturerichmond

This is the text of the speech I will be delivering on 4/14/14 at City Council during the public comments period. Below the speech are 2 amazing songs and information on the May Day Parade and Celebration in Monroe Park!!!

Sign made by Sarah Boggs for City Council Meeting

Sign made by Sarah Boggs for City Council Meeting

In 2013 the City of Richmond spent 11 million dollars to build a training camp for the racist football team from D.C. That racist team is the 3rd richest of all the teams in the NFL. But the City of Richmond has to pay them half a million dollars a year to practice here for 8 weeks. That comes to a total of 4 million dollars over the course of the 8 year contract. The rest of the year the facility remains vacant.
The training camp space can and ought to be used as a homeless shelter and resource center for the poor- who make up 27% of Richmond residents. The locker rooms and other aspects of the facilities make the training camp a huge improvement on existing options for the homeless.
Oh – and speaking of the homeless, they are facing the very real threat of being evicted from Monroe Park by the Monroe Park Conservancy if City Council approves this bogus lease tonight.
I have to ask- what kind of people spend 15 million dollars on a racist football team that is already the 3rd richest in the league, but would rather put at further risk some of our most vulnerable residents in order to not spend 3 million more on Monroe Park? What kind of people?

If the City of Richmond funded the entirety of the Monroe Park Renovations that would only be 2/5 of the amount being spent on that racist football team.

If City Council chooses to pass the leasing of a public park, which is an invaluable resource to low income residents, to a private entity made up of the rich and powerful who which to silence and make invisible the homeless, City Council is engaging in violence, classism, and morally reprehensible behavior.

If City Council supports the racist football team from D.C., Council is disgusting and oppressive.  The Washington D.C. City Council voted in 2013 to condemn the racist name, and Richmond City Council needs to as well.

If you support the construction of an unnecessary baseball stadium on historic slave market grounds, you need to step back and educate yourself on racism. If you think the public should fund the baseball stadium spending over  80 million dollars before taking care of our schools and parks you are ethically bankrupt and have no business acting as a leader in this region. Funding the entirety of the Monroe Park Renovations without leasing the park would cost 1/13 of what the stadium is projected to cost.

As my friend Gary Llama pointed out, this City government is acting like an irresponsible person with a credit card who spends money on fun frivelous things like eating out, vacations, and videogames, while ignoring their rent and utility bills and debts. This behavior is fiscally irresponsible and morally reprehensible and I urge you to change your ways.

Our public schools are literally falling down on and around our students. In Sunday’s paper Mayor Jones is quoted saying, “When that community re-gentrification takes place, thats when schools really start turning around”.

April 13, 2014 Richmond Times Dispatch

April 13, 2014 Richmond Times Dispatch

So according to the Mayor, when low income and people of color are forced out of a community by upper middle class white people the schools get better. He thinks that the violence of displacement is necessary to improve schools. I bet if the Mayor and City Council did not spend public funds on baseball, football, and tax breaks for Vulture Richmond there might be money for our schools and parks.

I am telling you, we will not go quietly. Scratch that, we will not go. The neoliberal direction of this administration is creating a resistance among the people, and we will not go, we shall not be moved.

 

We Shall Not Be Moved by Pete Seeger – some get pumped music for the resistance. Because Resistance is fun – which is also why you should join the fight to Keep Monroe Park Open and Free at the annual May Day Celebration and Parade! Info Below!!

Update on May Day from the meeting last night –
May day parade will meet at 2pm on Thursday May 1st in Clay abner park.

The parade will leave the park around 2:30 and march to Monroe Park.

Getting to Monroe Park by 4 at the latest. In Monroe Park there will be a potluck cookout, speakers, workshops and bands as we hold down the park until dark.

We want May Day to be fun, invigorating, and anti- stadium, anti-privatization of Monroe Park, and in support of Fast Food workers and everyone fighting for a Living Wage.

So make your own signs and banners and puppets and parade floats and costumes and bring a dish to share!

All Saints Theater will be organizing their puppets with support and determining the parade route.

Day of, we will need bike marshalls, medics, legal observers, copwatchers, and more!

And another of my favorite resistance songs- Which Side Are You On by Rebel Diaz!

Keep Monroe Park Open and Free Power Point

This is the first power point I have put together in probably a decade.
I made it because I wanted to make a presentation to the Land Use Committee on my bid for Monroe Park. However, they are not giving me equal treatment to Alice Massie/ the Monroe Park Conservancy.
It looks like I will not be able to present to them.
But I hope others will find this a useful tool, tying together some pieces around Richmond that are connected and that can teach us lessons on what not to do with Monroe Park.
If you would like me to come to your school, organization, neighborhood group or religious group to present the powerpoint I would be more than happy to. It is much more comprehensive with narration. And I would welcome a question/answer period at the end as well.
Please be in touch at mokarnage @gmail.com

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